Why you should care about how the internet works

Research impact, according to Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University, is ‘the good that researchers can do in the world’.

You’ve successfully completed and written up your research, and had it published in an academic journal. It’s now permanently available for scrutiny, review and discussion.

But if you’re looking to maximise the reach and impact of your research, there’s so much more you can do. This is where it pays to invest a little time in learning more about how the internet works – and how to harness its power to get your research seen and acted on by the right people.

So what’s the best way to go about doing this?

Get familiar with what’s on offer online

Professor Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media at the University of Salford, is a strong advocate of using social media to grow your network and publicise your work. He has produced and continues to maintain a very useful A-Z social media guide for academia which sets out many online tools indispensable to academics.

Choose your channels

Whilst you are in all probability part of a community of researchers in your specialist area, several mainstream platforms are well worth using to take part in discussions and disseminate your thoughts to a wider audience. We recommend:

  • Twitter – a fantastic source for making connections and getting live news updates. You’ll get the chance to read tweets from individuals about events or news in your area of interest well before you see it on official accounts. You can follow conferences you’ve not been able to attend, and be part of live, interactive discussions. For more tips read our Twitter guide for academics, including links to handy platforms designed to help you find the most up-to-date and relevant hashtags.
  • LinkedIn – no matter what your area of work, LinkedIn will increase your visibility. Make sure to link in with your colleagues and co-authors. Connect your LinkedIn profile to your staff page on your institution’s website. More advice on making the most of the networking opportunities the platform now offers is available at LinkedIn – The New Frontier.
  • Your own blog –  a great way to enhance your network and reputation, showcase your research and grow your audience to include sector experts and journalists. Before you start, research the best platform and create a plan. A blog that begins with a burst of enthusiasm only to quickly lose momentum gives entirely the wrong message. We have a series of posts to help you get set up and maintain your own site.
Switch on to SEO

The amount of information held by the web is growing at breakneck speed every day. This makes search engine optimisation (SEO) more important than ever for ensuring that your work is found online. Search engines run on keywords and connections, or links, between websites, so online links to and from your research will widen your reach. Your university website will provide the most authoritative links so, alongside your own social profile, make sure your university staff profile or the pages for your research institute are up-to-date, with all links working correctly.

Here at Global Academy Jobs, we advertise thousands of jobs every year so we know a bit about making content visible to search engines. Our profile pages include plenty of facts and data to help make jobs at a specific university more visible online. Job listings are also key online information, so do make sure to mention, and link to, relevant jobs at your research institute or related jobs in your field in your social media posts.

For five practical tips on SEO techniques, check out this article from Wiley, who report that more than half the traffic to Wiley Online Library comes directly from Google, Google Scholar and other search engines.

Measure your reach

Gathering and evaluating data showing where your work is being discussed will help you gauge your reach and ultimately increase the impact of your work. This is no longer restricted to traditional citation-based metrics. You can now use altmetrics to track the attention your research generates each day from a wide range of audiences including mainstream news outlets, policymakers and practitioners. Altmetric, for example, captures and collates nuanced data that gives you a comprehensive view of the online activity your research is inspiring. This can include evidence that your work is helping to change a field of study or affecting society in some tangible way. Take a look at these free tools to get you started.

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Jo Mitchell is an experienced writer and editor. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Oxford she worked in fundraising at Oxfam GB and Viva, where she specialised in writing communications for major donors. She now provides freelance editing and copywriting services at Nightingale Ink in the firm belief that sometimes words can sing.

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